The “Gift” of caring

I recently walked into a beautiful moment totally unexpectedly. I went into a room to change a guest’s dressing, and witnessed one of my helpers tenderly washing an end-of-life patient’s face. Nthabiseng was gently wiping Therezinah’s face with a little sponge… completely unrushed. Therezinah was staring into Nthabiseng’s eyes, clearly loving the bed bath. The room was warm, there was piano music playing and a smell of lavender came from her humidifier.

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Seeing Therezinah so at peace was lovely, but what touched me more was what was happening to Nthabiseng at that moment. She knew, without a doubt that she had purpose. Her presence and her gentleness were making a huge difference in this Brazilian lady’s last days. Nthabiseng did not just come to work to earn a salary to feed her three children, but she was needed, valued, validated and – forgive me for using the overused word – empowered.

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We recently needed more male carers and we took two very able and qualified guys on a temporary assignment. They were okay, but just did not fit into our culture. It was then, that I thought of Gift, our gardener. On many occasions when I pick up guests upon discharge from a hospuital, I take him along to help with the wheelchair. He is incredible and manoeuvres guests and wheelchairs painlessly and effortlessly into vehicles as if they are Tetris blocks slotting into place.

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At the beginning of our first lock-down in 2020, we had many a staff meeting. After being almost completely silent and just getting on with his job as a gardener, Gift suddenly found his voice… and what a voice it was! We were all quite astounded. He shared incredible ideas and wisdom. I remember after quite a tough meeting where I felt depleted, frustrated at the government’s lack of support for business owners and quite honestly, petrified at the daunting task of how to keep a business afloat and look after my staff, Gift stood up and said that he prays for me every night because he knows how difficult things must be for me now. His compassion and empathy were totally unexpected and deeply cherished.

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I asked Gift if he would like to go on training and become a carer. I warned him that caring is a messy business (emotionally, but it is also really practically gory at times). Hours are longer and the responsibility is much greater. But boy, it feeds your soul!

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Fast forward to today and he is a brilliant carer. He is strong, witty, hardworking, clever, funny and always up to the challenge. If I wanted to add a pun, I could even say that he certainly lives up to his name and is an incredible gift to the lodge.

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